Kota Kinabalu travel guide

Kota Kinabalu Tourism | Kota Kinabalu Guide

You're Going to Love Kota Kinabalu

Malaysia's eastern Borneo island location is famous worldwide for its stunning beaches, first class diving, lush jungle scenery and luxury resort accommodation.

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Kota Kinabalu

1. Kinbalu Park

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of Malaysia's first national parks and has worldwide ecological importance due to its unique flora, fauna and native mammal species.

2. Dalit Beach

There are many unspoiled beaches where you can indulge in water sports and get a bite to eat at one of the many beach restaurants.

3. Poring

This natural hot spring is a popular place among tourists, just 40km outside of the city in Sabah.

4. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque

This mosque is situated around a lagoon and is one of the most photographed sites in the region.

5. Green Connection

This aquarium with hands-on exhibits focuses on environmental protection and education.

What to do in Kota Kinabalu

1. Kinabalu Park: For both Adrenaline Junkies and Ecology Buffs

Kinbalu Park is one of Malaysia's first national parks and was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. The park has worldwide ecological importance thanks to its unique vegetation and native mammal species, including the rare Rothschild slipper orchid. From paragliding to rock climbing, canopy walks to mountain biking -- there isn't a shortage of outdoor sports to indulge in when visiting Kinbalu Park. For the truly adventurous, take the time to hike up Mount Kinbalu, which has a summit sitting at just over 4,000 meters.

2. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque: Don't Forget your Camera

Nestled beside a picturesque lagoon in the heart of downtown, the Kota Kinbalu City Mosque is one of the most photographed sites in all of Sabah. The building's design was modeled after the Nabawi Mosque in Saudi Arabia and can seat between 9,000 and 12,000 worshipers. The Mosque is actually floating just above the lagoon, which makes for a dramatic backdrop at night with the moon and stars reflecting in the water's surface. Today, the Mosque continues to serve the local Muslim population but is open to visitors of all faiths.

3. Muzium Sabah: An Exciting Hub of Activities and Fun

The tropic Borneo Malaysian weather can be intense and unexpected, with sudden showers forcing visitors to duck inside and wait out the passing storms. Luckily, there isn't a shortage of indoor cultural activities to do in Kota Kinbalu! One of the most popular tourist attractions is Muzium Sabah near to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The museum compound is full of fun activities and educational buildings, including the ethnobotanic garden, a zoo, an art gallery and a heritage village. There are many exhibitions within the museum covering topics such as Islamic civilization, archaeology and history, natural history and ceramics and brass-ware.

4. Taman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman: Water Activities Galore!

Borneo is world famous for its clear waters and fantastic water sports activities. The best way to take advantage of Kota Kinbalu's watery treasures is by visiting Taman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. The area consists of five islands off of the coast and is easily accessible via a 15 to 20-minute speedboat ride. After a quick tour of the island, dive headfirst into the world-famous waters to try your hand at snorkeling, deep sea fishing or scuba diving. There are several eco hotels which you can stay at during your visit to the islands, however several of the islands require booking prior to your intended travel day.

5. Gaya Street Sunday Market: A Unique and Exciting Shopping Experience

Gaya Street, formerly known as Bond Street, has been hosting a weekly Sunday Market in Kota Kinbalu for over a hundred years. The street actually shuts down to allow for a pedestrian free zone while shopping! Though the wooden shops have been INSERT IGNOREd, local artisans and farmers display their wares proudly. Here you can find everything from umbrellas, batik sarongs, flowers, antiques, souvenirs, cakes, herbs and more. The best time to visit is right as the markets open, when local families flock to Gaya Street to do their shopping and catch up with neighbors. You'll have to wake up early though -- the market is only open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Kinabalu ParkKinabalu Park
Kota Kinabalu City MosqueKota Kinabalu City Mosque
Muzium SabahMuzium Sabah
Taman Negara Tunku Abdul RahmanTaman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman

1. Kinabalu Park: For both Adrenaline Junkies and Ecology Buffs

Kinbalu Park is one of Malaysia's first national parks and was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in December 2000. The park has worldwide ecological importance thanks to its unique vegetation and native mammal species, including the rare Rothschild slipper orchid. From paragliding to rock climbing, canopy walks to mountain biking -- there isn't a shortage of outdoor sports to indulge in when visiting Kinbalu Park. For the truly adventurous, take the time to hike up Mount Kinbalu, which has a summit sitting at just over 4,000 meters.

2. Kota Kinabalu City Mosque: Don't Forget your Camera

Nestled beside a picturesque lagoon in the heart of downtown, the Kota Kinbalu City Mosque is one of the most photographed sites in all of Sabah. The building's design was modeled after the Nabawi Mosque in Saudi Arabia and can seat between 9,000 and 12,000 worshipers. The Mosque is actually floating just above the lagoon, which makes for a dramatic backdrop at night with the moon and stars reflecting in the water's surface. Today, the Mosque continues to serve the local Muslim population but is open to visitors of all faiths.

3. Muzium Sabah: An Exciting Hub of Activities and Fun

The tropic Borneo Malaysian weather can be intense and unexpected, with sudden showers forcing visitors to duck inside and wait out the passing storms. Luckily, there isn't a shortage of indoor cultural activities to do in Kota Kinbalu! One of the most popular tourist attractions is Muzium Sabah near to the Sacred Heart Cathedral. The museum compound is full of fun activities and educational buildings, including the ethnobotanic garden, a zoo, an art gallery and a heritage village. There are many exhibitions within the museum covering topics such as Islamic civilization, archaeology and history, natural history and ceramics and brass-ware.

4. Taman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman: Water Activities Galore!

Borneo is world famous for its clear waters and fantastic water sports activities. The best way to take advantage of Kota Kinbalu's watery treasures is by visiting Taman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. The area consists of five islands off of the coast and is easily accessible via a 15 to 20-minute speedboat ride. After a quick tour of the island, dive headfirst into the world-famous waters to try your hand at snorkeling, deep sea fishing or scuba diving. There are several eco hotels which you can stay at during your visit to the islands, however several of the islands require booking prior to your intended travel day.

5. Gaya Street Sunday Market: A Unique and Exciting Shopping Experience

Gaya Street, formerly known as Bond Street, has been hosting a weekly Sunday Market in Kota Kinbalu for over a hundred years. The street actually shuts down to allow for a pedestrian free zone while shopping! Though the wooden shops have been INSERT IGNOREd, local artisans and farmers display their wares proudly. Here you can find everything from umbrellas, batik sarongs, flowers, antiques, souvenirs, cakes, herbs and more. The best time to visit is right as the markets open, when local families flock to Gaya Street to do their shopping and catch up with neighbors. You'll have to wake up early though -- the market is only open from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Kinabalu ParkKinabalu Park
Kota Kinabalu City MosqueKota Kinabalu City Mosque
Muzium SabahMuzium Sabah
Taman Negara Tunku Abdul RahmanTaman Negara Tunku Abdul Rahman

Top activities & attractions in Kota Kinabalu

Where to Eat in Kota Kinabalu

Suang Tain Seafood Restaurant serves fresh-caught fish and traditional Malaysian food. Meal prices average about MYR25.

When to visit Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu in June
Estimated hotel price
$35
1 night at 3-star hotel
Kota Kinabalu in June
Estimated hotel price
$35
1 night at 3-star hotel

The best time to visit is May-September after the rainfall season, when the weather becomes more stable and you can view all kinds of turtles and orangutans playing in the wild jungles.

Data provided by weatherbase
Temperatures
Temperatures
Average
Fahrenheit (°F)
Data provided by weatherbase

How to Get to Kota Kinabalu

Plane

Kota Kinabalu International Airport is located 7km outside of the city. One way tickets from London cost roughly MYR2,200.

Train

Sabah State Railway connects to other destinations on the island. A ticket to Beaufort with connections to Tenom costs MYR3.8 and takes 2 hours.

Car

There are 3 highways operating through Kota Kinabalu. Highway 1 runs north and south with connections to Brunei, with 22 and 500 heading east to Ranau, Tambunan and Tenom.

Bus

Currently all long-distance buses operate out of the North Bus Terminal (Inanam) just 10km outside of the city.

Airports near Kota Kinabalu

Airlines serving Kota Kinabalu

KLM
Good (345 reviews)
British Airways
Good (1,399 reviews)
Turkish Airlines
Good (1,307 reviews)
Qatar Airways
Good (1,185 reviews)
Emirates
Excellent (922 reviews)
Singapore Airlines
Excellent (312 reviews)
Malaysia Airlines
Good (47 reviews)
Japan Airlines
Good (457 reviews)
Korean Air
Excellent (239 reviews)
Asiana Airlines
Excellent (77 reviews)
China Airlines
Excellent (41 reviews)
Oman Air
Excellent (5 reviews)
Philippine Airlines
Good (178 reviews)
Scoot
Good (68 reviews)
Batik Air
Good (5 reviews)
Cebu Pacific
Good (28 reviews)
AirAsia
Okay (22 reviews)
Jeju Air
Excellent (3 reviews)
Philippines AirAsia
Good (11 reviews)
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Where to stay in Kota Kinabalu

Lok Kawi - This small nearby town offers an impressive wildlife park where you can have up-close encounters with tigers, monkeys and pygmy elephants.

Popular Neighborhoods in Kota Kinabalu

Jalan Kampung Air - Visit this neighborhood to experience the traditional Southeast-Asian night markets and sample traditional Malaysian cuisine.

Karambunai - This neighborhood features many popular beaches which are good for snorkeling and diving.

Where to stay in popular areas of Kota Kinabalu

Most booked hotels in Kota Kinabalu

Hilton Kota Kinabalu
Excellent (8.9, 1379 reviews)
$69+
Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu
Excellent (8.8, 2740 reviews)
$163+
The Pacific Sutera Hotel
Excellent (8.8, 748 reviews)
$47+
The Magellan Sutera Resort
Excellent (8.7, 1860 reviews)
$72+
Gaya Centre Hotel
Excellent (8.3, 454 reviews)
$20+
Borneo Beach Villas
Good (7.9, 1484 reviews)
$42+
See all hotels

How to Get Around Kota Kinabalu

Public Transportation

The Wawasan Bus Terminal is currently under construction, being temporarily replaced by a stretch in front of Waterfront Mall. Single ride tickets cost around MYR2 and can be paid when boarding the bus.

Taxi

Taxi tariffs start at MYR8, with a typical ride in the center costing around MYR15.

Car

Rental vehicles can be picked up from Kota Kinabalu airport with average daily rates starting at MYR130.

The Cost of Living in Kota Kinabalu

Shopping Streets

Kota Kinabalu Handicraft (Filipino) Market offers souvenirs, including textiles, jewelry and local handcrafts for negotiable prices. 1Borneo Hypermall is the largest modern shopping mall in Borneo.

Groceries and Other

The two main shopping markets are City Grocer Supermarket and Giant Supermarket. A dozen eggs costs 4.5 MYR.

Cheap meal
$1.85
A pair of jeans
$77.59
Single public transport ticket
$0.46
Cappuccino
$2.38